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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 00-11-29

Midday Express: News from the EU Commission Spokesman's Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: EUROPA, the European Commission Server at <http://europa.eu.int>

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Spokesman's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi du Service Presse et Communicationb

29/11/2000


CONTENTS / CONTENU

[I] Résultats de la Commission de ce jour - Outcome of today's Commission meeting

  • [01] Commission decides new measures on BSE : exceptional events call for an exceptional response
  • [02] L'économie de l'Union : bilan de 2000"
  • [03] Commission reforms competition rules for cooperation between companies
  • [04] New initiatives to favour equal opportunities in the Commission
  • [05] Commission takes clear position on aid to shipbuilding and reinforces its position against South Korean unfair price practices
  • [06] Farm aid : go-ahead for euro 520 million agreements with candidate countries
  • [07] La Commission se penche à nouveau sur les exonérations fiscales françaises en faveur des biocarburants
  • [08] Aides incompatibles à l'emploi en Italie : la Commission saisit la Cour
  • [09] Commission approves aid to industrial development on Canaries
  • [10] La Commission clôt par une décision négative une affaire relative à des aides en faveur d'entreprises sidérurgiques italiennes
  • [11] Décision finale de la Commission sur les aides à Ferries Golfo de Vizcaya
  • [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • [12] SSC adopts opinion on scientific justification of national BSE measures
  • [13] Commision clears merger between Smiths Industries and TI Group
  • [14] Hungary : Farm trade dispute settled
  • [15] Economic forecasts for the candidate countries 2000-2002 ; detailed country by country analysis
  • [16] Frits Bolkestein underlines continuous efforts required to ensure Internal Market benefits citizens and business
  • [17] Anna Diamantopoulou: "Two million potential new cases of female genital mutilation a year - cultural practices cannot justify violations of fundamental human rights"

  • [I] Résultats de la Commission de ce jour - Outcome of today's Commission meeting

    [01] Commission decides new measures on BSE : exceptional events call for an exceptional response

    The European Commission has agreed several new proposals to respond to the current BSE crisis from Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, and David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. These proposals will now go forward to the specially convened Agriculture Council to be held on 4 December. The proposals include : a temporary ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal (MBM) to all farm animals ; a requirement that all animals over 30 months are tested for BSE to enhance consumer confidence ; a requirement that the current list of specified risk materials (SRMs), which must be removed and destroyed, should now also include the entire intestine of bovines of all ages ; a "purchase for destruction" scheme to remove from the food chain all cattle aged over 30 months unless they have been tested for BSE to ensure additional guarantees and to rebalance the beef market ; a flexible handling of public intervention to address the current drop in producer prices ; raise the advances paid for the beef premia from currently 60% to 80%, in order to take the financial pressure from beef producers. The Commission Commission also formally adopted a proposal to require the testing of all "at risk" animals from 1 January 2001. This requirement will be extended to all animals aged over 30 months from 1 July 2001.

    [02] L'économie de l'Union : bilan de 2000"

    Comme l'économie de l'UE aborde une période importante par les transformations radicales qui vont s'opérer, le thème majeur de "L'économie de l'Union : bilan de 2000" est cette année la viabilité de la croissance économique à moyen terme. Sur la base des prévisions d'automne de la Commission, publiées la semaine dernière, le bilan procède à une analyse approfondie des perspectives et des défis qui se présenteront pour l'économie de l'UE en général et la zone euro en particulier. Il examine en outre quatre questions clés qui devront retenir l'attention des décideurs : (i) la viabilité de la reprise dans la zone euro ; (ii) l'impact de la "nouvelle économie" sur l'économie européenne ; (iii) la relation entre la croissance économique et la pérennité de l'environnement ; (iv) la convergence réelle et le rattrapage des régions moins développées de l'UE.

    [03] Commission reforms competition rules for cooperation between companies

    The European Commission has adopted new competition rules concerning so- called horizontal cooperation agreements, i.e. cooperation agreements between competitors. They consist of revised block exemption Regulations on Research and Development agreements and Specialisation agreements and guidelines on various types of cooperation agreements. The new rules reform a key area of competition policy ; they are part of a wider review undertaken by the Commission to streamline and adapt EC competition law. As cooperation between competitors becomes increasingly important in today's economy, clear rules are an important contribution to Europe's competitiveness.

    [04] New initiatives to favour equal opportunities in the Commission

    Building on its recent initiatives, notably on access by female officials to management posts, the European Commission has adopted a wide-ranging series of proposals on the promotion of equal opportunities for its staff, whatever their race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religious conviction or age. Some of these measures will require the modification of the Staff Regulations, others imply changes to internal management practices. Measures range from the simple but highly symbolic modification of the vocabulary used in the Staff Regulations so as to make it gender neutral, to shifting of the burden of proof to the employer in cases of alleged discrimination. In a related set of decisions adopted earlier, the Commission proposes to upgrade the provisions for maternity, paternity, parental and personal leave, as well as encouraging new forms of work such as part-time work.

    [05] Commission takes clear position on aid to shipbuilding and reinforces its position against South Korean unfair price practices

    The European Commission has taken a clear stance on aid to shipbuilding in the European Union and took also a strong position to counter unfair practices by South Korea in this sector. Further to the adoption of its third report on the situation in world shipbuilding (see IP/00/1301) on 15 November 2000, and prior to the Industry Council on 5 December where this issue will be discussed by Member States, the Commission stated that it opposes a prolongation of operating aid for shipbuilding, which will expire on 31 December 2000 as provided for in Regulation 1540/98 adopted by the Council. The Commission is currently finalising its examination of the European shipbuilding industry's request to open an investigation into unfair practices in South Korea under the Trade Barriers Regulation (TBR). If no satisfactory negotiated solution can be reached with Korea, the Commission will report to the Council by 1 May 2001, proposing to bring a panel against South Korea in the WTO and to establish a defensive temporary support mechanism specifically designed to counter unfair South Korean practices for a period necessary for the conclusion of the WTO procedure. This mechanism would be limited to those market segments where it has been demonstrated that EU industry has been directly injured by unfair Korean trade practices. Finally, the Commission declares its willingness to allow greater use of State aid for R&D in the shipbuilding sector. The position will be presented to the above-mentioned Council meeting.

    [06] Farm aid : go-ahead for euro 520 million agreements with candidate countries

    The European Commission has authorised Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries Franz Fischler to sign the Multi-annual and Annual Financing Agreements with the candidate countries. This is an important step in the process of providing the euro 520 million worth pre- accession aid for agriculture and rural development (SAPARD). The Multi- annual Financing Agreements lay down the detailed provisions for delegating the management of the rural development programmes to the candidate countries, covering the necessary financial control rules. This is the first time in the history of the EU that external aid will be managed on a fully decentralised basis, requiring an enormous legislative and administrative effort on both sides.

    [07] La Commission se penche à nouveau sur les exonérations fiscales françaises en faveur des biocarburants

    Suite à un arrêt du Tribunal de Première Instance (TPI), la Commission européenne a décidé d'ouvrir la procédure formelle d'examen en matière d'aides d'Etat à l'encontre d'une partie du régime français établissant une exonération fiscale en faveur des biocarburants. Par son arrêt du du 27 septembre 2000, le TPI avait annulé partiellement la décision de la Commission du 9 avril 1997 qui avait déclaré compatible avec le marché commun un régime d'aides aux biocarburants (esters d'huiles végétales et l'éthyl-tertio-buthyl-éther ou ETBE) notifié par la France par lettre du 29 novembre 1996. L'arrêt avait laissé intacte la partie de la décision concernant la filière esters d'huiles végétales. Par conséquent, la nouvelle procédure ne concerne que la partie du régime qui porte sur les mesures concernant la filière ETBE.

    [08] Aides incompatibles à l'emploi en Italie : la Commission saisit la Cour

    La Commission européenne a décidé de saisir la Cour des Justice européenne pour le motif que l'Italie n'a pas récupéré des aides incompatibles en faveur de l'emploi suite à la décision prise par la Commission le 11 mai 1999. Le régime d'aide en question, mis en exécution depuis novembre 1995, prévoit des exonérations de charges sociales en cas de recrutement par des contrats de formation et de travail ou de transformation de ces contrats en contrats à durée indéterminée. Fidèle à sa politique de promotion de l'emploi, la Commission avait approuvé ce programme, mais seulement dans le cas de création de nouveaux postes de travail et d'embauche de travailleurs éprouvant des difficultés particulières à s'insérer ou à se réinsérer dans le marché du travail. Or, toutes les aides versées n'ont pas respecté ces conditions. La saisine de la Cour est la conséquence normale de la non- exécution d'une décision contraignante de la Commission.

    [09] Commission approves aid to industrial development on Canaries

    The European Commission has approved a euro 60 million aid scheme to promote industrial development and technological modernisation on the Canary Islands during the period 2000-2006.

    [10] La Commission clôt par une décision négative une affaire relative à des aides en faveur d'entreprises sidérurgiques italiennes

    La Commission européenne a décidé que les mesures de soutien en faveur de cinq entreprises sidérurgiques, d'un montant total de 1,88 million d'euros (3,64 milliards de LIT), que l'Italie a notifiées pour des investissements effectués entre 1986 et 1994 à des fins de conservation de l'énergie ne pouvaient pas être considérées comme des aides à l'environnement. A l'époque, les sociétés concernées ne pouvaient pas légitimement s'attendre à bénéficier d'aides pour les investissements en question.

    [11] Décision finale de la Commission sur les aides à Ferries Golfo de Vizcaya

    En exécution de l'arrêt du Tribunal de première instance du 28 janvier 1999, la Commission européenne a décidé que les aides en faveur de la société Ferries Golfo de Vizcaya devaient être remboursées. Entre 1995 et 1998, le Conseil provincial de Biscaye a versé près d'un milliard de pesetas à Ferries Golfo de Vizcaya pour l'achat de 46.000 titres de transport avec l'intention de distribuer ces billets à des groupes sociaux défavorisés. Cette opération fut contestée devant le Tribunal de Première Instance par la compagnie Bretagne Angleterre Irlande ("Brittany Ferries"), qui voyait dans l'opération une aide d'Etat en vue de soutenir la ligne maritime Bilbao-Portsmouth. Estimant que l'accord en question ne constituait pas une transaction commerciale normale, le Tribunal de première instance a conclu qu'il s'agissait d'une aide d'Etat au sens du Traité. Au vu de tous les éléments, notamment de la distribution effective d'une minorité seulement de titres de transport, la Commission a considéré comme incompatibles avec le Traité les aides accordées à la compagnie et demandé à ce que les sommes perçues soient récupérées par les autorités espagnoles.

    [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

    [12] SSC adopts opinion on scientific justification of national BSE measures

    The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), advising the European Commission on BSE related issues, has today adopted an opinion on the scientific justifications submitted by Italy, Spain, Austria and France for national measures to reduce the BSE risk. The Committee, in special session, examined the submissions at the request of the Commission, following the conclusions of the Agriculture Council of 20/21 November. The scientists had previously predicted the recent increase in the reported incidence of BSE in France and Ireland, in its Geographical BSE Risk analysis in July 2000. This view has been confirmed by increased testing and improved surveillance. Import bans are not justified in the SSC view by the evidence submitted so far by the countries concerned. Effective implementation of the ban on meat-an-bone meal cattle feed, of sound rendering practices and removal of specified risk materials in importing and exporting countries would probably exclude the need for trade restrictions. Until this is achieved, some temporary trade restrictions might be justified. They should be based on assessments of the implementation of BSE risk management measures and of BSE risk in the Member States concerned. The SSC recommends a temporary ban on feeding MBM to all farmed animals and pets where a significant risk of cross-contamination of cattle feed with MBM possibly contaminated with the BSE agent is found. It recommends that Member States assess this risk nationally. The new French risk reduction measures, i.e. removal of vertebrae, bovine intestines and casings, are found to be scientifically justified in the French context.

    [13] Commision clears merger between Smiths Industries and TI Group

    The European Commission has given its approval to a full merger between British companies Smith Industries Plc and TI Group Plc. The concentration will lead to overlaps in the markets for aerospace actuation systems and speciality flexible pressure hoses, designed to transfer fluids in demanding applications and environments. But these overlaps will not create or strengthen a dominant position in any of the two product markets concerned.

    [14] Hungary : Farm trade dispute settled

    In consultations held in Budapest on 27 November between the Hungarian authorities and European Commission officials a solution was found on the maize export restrictions applied by Hungary. Commenting on the agreement, Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said : "I am glad that a solution could be found. This should ensure that EU maize processors will be treated in a fair way and existing contracts will be honored." Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen was also happy to note that a solution had been found to the immediate problems under the Europe Agreement and that consultations were continuing in a constructive spirit.

    [15] Economic forecasts for the candidate countries 2000-2002 ; detailed country by country analysis

    (! embargo 12h !) Following the presentation by European Commissioner Pedro Solbes of the economic forecasts for the candidate countries 2000-2002, the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs publishes today in the Economic Reform Monitor Nr. 4 a detailed country by country analysis of the economic prospects of these countries. In 2000, the overall average real increase in GDP for the ten transition accession countries is forecast to be 4.2%, almost twice as high as in 1999. Strong or accelerating domestic demand, in particular investment and private consumption, and a the favourable international environment is supporting growth and some real catching-up. The employment outlook should also gradually improve. Further progress on inflation reduction becomes more challenging over the forecasting period. Trade and current account deficits should remain relatively high in most accession countries, although they are expected to decline moderately. Persistently high external deficits are to be expected in countries that are going through a catching-up phase. The average government deficit of the candidate counties should continue to fall considerably from 2000 to 2002, mainly as a result of the sharp fiscal consolidation in Turkey. It should be noted that considerable data comparability problems persist in the area of public finances. The document will be available on the internet at the following address : http://europa.eu.int/comm/economy_finance/document/eesuppc/2000_4/c2000_4_en.pdf

    [16] Frits Bolkestein underlines continuous efforts required to ensure Internal Market benefits citizens and business

    "The Internal Market is the principal delivery vehicle for the European Union's Treaty objective of raising the standard of living and the quality of life of all its citizens", said Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein to the Internal Market Forum in Brussels on 29 November. "Moreover, this year's Lisbon European Council underlined the important contribution that the Internal Market makes to achieving the Union's objectives of sustainable economic growth, more and better jobs, and greater social cohesion. But there is nothing automatic about the Internal Market. It does not operate just because the Treaty says it should. We have to work at it permanently. And benefits to citizens are not delivered if they remain theoretical. There has to be greater awareness. People need to know what their rights are and to have the confidence that they will work in practice. They must know where to go for more detailed information and for help in seeking redress if things go wrong. The on-going Dialogue with Citizens and Business has a crucial role to play in this respect."

    [17] Anna Diamantopoulou: "Two million potential new cases of female genital mutilation a year - cultural practices cannot justify violations of fundamental human rights"

    European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou will speak today at a European Parliament public hearing on female genital mutilation in Brussels along with António Vitorino, Emma Bonino and others. Today, 29th of November, is the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation. An estimated 135 million of the world's girls and women have undergone genital mutilation, and two million girls a year are at risk of mutilation approximately 6,000 per day. It is practised extensively in Africa and is common in some countries in the Middle East. It also occurs, mainly among immigrant communities, in parts of Asia and the Pacific, North and Latin America and Europe.

    MIDDAY EXPRESS


    From EUROPA, the European Commission Server at http://europa.eu.int/
    © ECSC - EC - EAEC, Brussels-Luxembourg, 1995, 1996


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